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Killer hated being bored
He chose death to escape 'torture' on death row

Published: Friday, Oct. 15 1999 12:00 a.m. MDT

UTAH STATE PRISON -- Joseph Mitchell Parsons dropped his appeals and asked to be executed early this morning because he was bored.

He said the reason is that simple.The condemned killer had been on death row 12 years for the stabbing death of Richard Ernest at a rest area near Cedar City in the summer of 1987.

"I'm ready to go. Actually, it's going pretty slow to me," the 35-year-old told the Deseret News from his prison cell during an Oct. 8 interview. Despite his execution being only one week away, he seemed cheerful and upbeat.

"It's not the courts that is doing it (executing him), it's me that's doing it. Sitting here all these years is torture, plain and simple."

Parsons said he considers his own death a form of "freedom."

"There's got to be a better place than this," he said.

In a letter written to the Deseret News, also on the condition that it be published only after his death, Parsons said he dropped years of additional appeals because he's frustrated with the court system.

"The majority of society believes the delays in death penalty cases are the fault of those who have death sentences, but in reality, it's the judges who are at fault," he wrote, citing examples of judges taking more than 31/2 years to rule on different phases of death row appeals.

"When the realization hit me that no judge was going to rule in my favor, I decided to take matters into my own hands," Parsons wrote. "I'm not like some guys who can sit on death row for 15 or 20 years living on false hope. . . . After being here in the Utah State Prison for over 11 1/2 years, I decided to see what's next."

Parsons said he was born and raised in New York City and he moved with his family to Florida when he was 14. He said he went to Nevada to find adventure when he turned 18 and "that's where I got busted."

It was in Nevada where he robbed a taxi driver and went to prison from 1982 to 1987. He was paroled in Reno and later decided to go back East to visit his family. He had no means of transportation, so he hitchhiked.

He said he doesn't remember exactly where Ernest picked him up in California, but he said the two traveled together through California, Nevada and then through southern Utah. At a rest area where the two stopped to sleep, Parsons said Ernest made several passes at him.

He said Ernest put his hand on his leg and Parsons moved it away. He said he told Ernest he would have to leave and Ernest responded, "no problem." Ernest then grabbed him by the leg again and, according to Parsons, he moved it away and he started to get out of the car.

"You're not going anywhere," Parsons said Ernest told him. "I guess I still had the prison mentality. If someone touches me, I react quick."

Parsons said he grabbed a four-inch knife strapped around his leg and stabbed Ernest in the chest. Parsons said Ernest "slumped" over, so he pulled the knife out. Ernest then came to and Parsons said he started yelling and screaming derogatory remarks at him. He then stabbed Ernest several more times but said those wounds were "superficial."

"I've never said what I did was the right thing. I did it to protect myself," he said.

Prosecutors give no credence to Parsons' version of events. A medical examiner testified that Ernest was likely stabbed as he slept in his vehicle and had no chance to defend himself. There was never any evidence presented in court to substantiate Parsons' claim about the sexual advance.

When asked if he had any remorse, Parsons replied, "I have remorse toward his family and my family. But I have no remorse for him because we're both dying for his action.

"He made a pass at me and it escalated. I didn't know what was in his head," Parsons continued. "If I was looking to kill him for his things, why didn't I just use the gun I had in my bag?"

Parsons declined to discuss his family and said none of them would be present to witness his execution. In his letter, however, he thanked his family for their unconditional love. "I've come to learn family is everything. My mistake was I learned that lesson too late."

Parsons also said that he had a brother in town who would visit him the last week of his life and later pick up his body, take it to an undisclosed location and have it cremated.

"I'm not a religious man," Parsons noted. "But I believe I'll go on. I believe we're all made up of intelligent energy and life goes on. Everything is a cycle. Nature is a cycle. That's why I believe there is never an end."

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